Saturday, November 26, 2005
Monday, November 21, 2005
Team update - 21 Nov 05
Been off for a while. Not by design; just a mix of being busy, distracted by life as we know it here in Ramadi, and not really wanting to disclose all of what goes on here (the Marines out there would love it; the families probably would not). When I called my Dad tonight and he asked why all the pictures and no entry for so long. He’s right; back to work.
For a month now – since the election – things have been more quiet than expected, both operationally and in terms of enemy activity. We have been keeping ourselves amused with position improvement things (e.g. we just got our Camp Tiger rifle range finished last week), supporting standing requirements (e.g. traveling down to check on our jundi posted to OP Hotel), as well as supporting the operations we do have. The operation to the Stadium we had almost a month ago (see earlier pictures) was one of those; we went down in force, tanks and Bradleys in support, with Cobra and Huey support, and OWNED the stadium for a bit. Nothing like going into the enemy’s house and sitting down in his La-Z-Boy for more than a day. Was the enemy pissed? Yes (trust me on this one). Did we stay anyway? Yes. Gains here are sometimes infinitesimal. Bad news for me was that I was sick as a dog with a cold once we got down there. The couple of times I personally went out on patrol while there, I was winded pretty well. I may still feel 20, but alas, I am not. That one picture of me running into the stadium, for example; I was NOT running very fast. The Iraqis did manage to find a soccer ball and some uniforms and started up a soccer game, with a couple of American soldiers joining in, until the game was “postponed” by enemy activity. Nothing too serious; just distracting.
The weather has definitely cooled off significantly. His of 72, lows of 50 this week. So much better than even two weeks ago. The flies are still here, though. Unbelieveably, they may even be worse. They’re easier to kill though, since it’s downright cold in the mornings. We were waiting to out on a mission the other day at about 0800; I was sitting in the front passenger seat of our HUMMV. I looked up and on a 4” piece of 550 cord, there were at least six flies, perched and still dull from the cold. I started our day off by killing six flies with one hand! A good day had begun.
Another piece of news: by the time you read this, we will be within 100 days of rotating back CONUS (“CONtinental US” to you non-military folk out there). This is big news. I still day to not believe it until 1) you are on the plane, 2) the wheels are up, and 3) you are past the halfway mark (and it makes more sense to continue than to turn around). All joking aside, it ain’t over by a lng shot, but it is a milestone worth noting. Just don’t anybody start counting days.
Mission wise, we’ve had a couple of interesting ones since the stadium. Walked around up in the area north of us on an op last night where we kept the pressure on for 24 hours. That day was notable because it freakin’ RAINED, which was something we had not been really counting on. Just enough to knock down the dust down (good), and bring out the mud (bad). Imagine having a bunch of armed men knocking on your door at night, politely asking to come in (we we’re going to come anyway), tracking mud all over hell and creation (and I personally stepped in at least one cow pie), while rifling through all your families stuff. Suprisingly enough, the families up there actually received us very well (even after waking several of them up). At one point – I swear – the whole thing reminded me of a bizarre version of a Halloween “trick-or-treat”. We were split into two groups, leapfrogging houses, by a full moon on a crisp autumn night. Didn’t even really need the NVGs we Marines were wearing to see. Some of the jundee prefer to wear ski masks while on patrol so as to disguise their identity (do NOT try this in civilian clothes here, though, because it will get you shot). There we were, all in “costume”, going from one house to another. Knock knock knock…..KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK… “Hi, mind if I and 20 close friends come in for a look? No electricity? No problem; I brought a flashlight…”
Hmmm, what else. The USMC Birthday was great, and I truly think that everyone had a good time. The Army chow hall on Corregidor hooked us up with steak, shrimp (“scrimp”,as Master Guns has us saying) even ice cream and a cake. I hooked us up with the mandatory cheap cigars from the local haji shop. If some of the pictures look hazy, it is because of the sheer volume of smoke in our non air-conditioned room. No alcohol to be had, we called it an early night, everyone drove back home (lights off, weapon at the ready), and the Birthday Ball. Ladies, we missed having you there, but think of the money you saved on the dress this year!
Had a visit from a small convoy of Marines the other day from MEF (the HQ higher than Division out here), where I bumped into one of the Marines I worked with while on active duty five years ago, LtCol Mick Davis. He and I were in the same office at 8th Marines back in LeJEURne. I did NOT expect to see him out here, but it was damn good to run across him. Small, small war. One funny thing about the visit was how the Marines with him reacted to being here, at Camp Tiger. Since they apparently don’t get out much, and since we technically are “outside the wire” living here with the Iraqi Army, these guys were acting like they expected a firefight any minute. The CO and I returned from Corregidor to find them here early, and after pulling in the gate, a Marine in front of our building belligerently signaled us to “Halt!” and to not pass him. I stopped, and the CO firmly told him before I could that this was OUR house, and we’d stop where we damn well pleased. Once inside the building, Marines were positioned about every 10 feet, weapon carried at the ready. I asked them if they wanted anything to drink, and just kept on walking, trying to keep from smiling. Luckily, there were no loud noises while they were here.
Well, well. Already gone on for three pages now. Going to get ready for bed and whatever fun tomorrow brings us. Thank you all for the comments and for continuing to put up with my irregularity. And thanks to all of you out there who have mailed us these fabulous packages these past few weeks. The Philadelphia Bible Fellowship has dropped about six MAJOR boxes on us, all addressed to me (but I assume from someone knowing one of our Pennsylvanians); the Cub Scouts of Pack 173 in Bowling Green, VA hooked us up with balloons for the rifle range, and all kinds of good stuff; Agnieszka from Denver has kept us in “Boot Camp Blend” coffee for a couple of weeks now (God bless you), as well as some DVDs and snacks. Add in our individual friends (Bob and Laura Ogle, Dave Ballinger, Janet Chaykin) and families (my Mom and Dad, and dear wife Joy), and we are, in short, rolling in an embarrassment of riches. I think that we will be in good shape now through the holidays in terms of “gedunk” (a little Marine lingo for the kids out there); any more, and you’ll have some less than svelte Marines showing up in 99 days! Thank all of you so much for your kindness.
I’m off. More soon. More pictures sooner.